Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier this week, John McClain of the Houston Chronicle reported that the Houston Texans and Miami Dolphins want to finalize a deal for star quarterback Deshaun Watson before the Nov. 2 NFL trade deadline. The Dolphins aren't the only team that has been tied to Watson, however, and it's possible another franchise could step in and steal Watson in the eleventh hour. One of these dark horses in the Watson sweepstakes could be the Carolina Panthers.

While the Panthers traded for and picked up the fifth-year option on quarterback Sam Darnold this offseason, he has still yet to prove that he's a franchise quarterback. With the Watson rumor mill again beginning to spin, Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News asked Panthers head coach Matt Rhule during a Thursday press conference if he would do due diligence on Watson. Rhule responded by saying "I haven't done any work on anyone else" and "I believe Sam will be a great quarterback for the Carolina Panthers."

The former New York Jets signal-caller looked as though he had turned over a new leaf with the Panthers through the first few weeks of the regular season. He won his first three starts in Carolina and even rushed for five touchdowns in the first four games. The past few weeks have been frustrating for Panthers fans, however, as Carolina has now dropped three straight.

Darnold's recent decline has contributed to the losing streak, as he has thrown four touchdowns and six interceptions in the past three contests. During the 34-28 overtime loss to the Minnesota Vikings last week, Darnold completed just 17 of 41 passes. 

It remains to be seen if Darnold is the answer in Carolina, but Rhule will likely give him more than six games before deciding to mortgage the future for a quarterback facing off-field issues. Watson, of course, is still facing multiple lawsuits alleging sexual assault, and it would be no surprise if he was not moved at the trade deadline.

Is Sam Darnold the right fit for Carolina? The Panthers are looking to make noise in the NFC and the CBS Sports app has everything you need to follow their 2021 season. If you've already downloaded the CBS Sports app favorite the Panthers now so you don't miss any Carolina news.